Aim for a front corner when you hit off the backwall

Aim for a front corner when you hit off the backwall

I used to play with somebody who hit between 20 and 30 shots per match off the backwall.

Not out of necessity but because he chose to.

The problem was that because he didn’t need to, he had more time and better position than most players do when doing it and consequently was very good at them.

When you hit the ball off the backwall try to aim it so that it goes into the opposite frontwall corner.

Due to the spin of the ball (don’t worry you don’t have to try to hit any spin) when it hits the frontwall it will almost always go parallel to the sidewall.

So if you can make it hit the frontwall as close to the sidewall as possible, it’s actually possible to make it hard for your opponent.

Now, I fully realize that it’s easy for me to type these words but it’s much harder to do because if you are hitting it off the backwall then it must be a last ditch attempt to keep the rally going.

But as I keep saying: Hit every shot with intention.

Next time you get on court, try it and see what happens, you might be surprised.

Use The Serve Effectively.

Use The Serve Effectively.

Do you know why the first hit of squash is called the serve?

Well, in games that proceeded squash and tennis: rackets and real tennis, the first hit of the ball was not allowed to be too difficult for the opponent. If it was considered too fast or difficult, the receiving player could actually ask for it to be played again. Crazy, right?

Just as a side note, the first recorded lob in lawn tennis at Wimbledon is around the 1920’s I believe but they had been playing there since the late 1890’s.

Which means they played for around 30 years before somebody had the audacity to hit the ball over the head of the player at the net. It must have seemed outrageous at the time. How unsportsmanlike!

However, we shouldn’t let the roots of a name define our present attitude.

Don’t think about “serving the balls” but “starting the rally with the toughest shot you can play”.

The best first shot really depends on your opponent, but the minimum you should be aiming for is to stop them hitting a winner and ideally force them to play a weak return.

One small problem club players face in this regard is what the professionals do.

Watching on a screen never really shows how difficult their serves are. How often have you seen aces in squash. *Even after all these years in squash, I’m never sure if that’s the correct word for a winning serve!*

You also see many professionals hit fantastic nicks from serves and this can give the false impression that professionals just hit the ball without much thought to start the rally. They don’t.

I can guarantee that if you were to face their serves you would find them quite difficult to return well.

Almost all good serves hit the side wall before the returner has a chance to hit it.

A ball coming off the side wall is one of the hardest for club players to hit straight, that’s why so many returns for difficult serves are hit crosscourt.

When you serve make it as difficult as possible for your opponent to hit good return.

In fact, when playing practice matches, nake sure you go for some high serves, even if you hit them out – it’s worth the practice.

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

I believe so.

Knowing what you are going to hit a long time before you hit it, can keep your mind clear and that process of avoiding distraction can make that shot better.

Deciding what to hit moments before hitting a ball leaves you open to making crazy decisions.

Having a gameplan allows you to focus on that. It might not be the best gameplan against that particular player but that’s not the important part.

Having or developing self-control can be the difference between winning and losing.

Every now and again, pick a gameplan and use it in a match. Keep with it until the end of the match.

That last part is important. It builds mental strength.

I remember a student of mine playing a club match, she was the number 1 string and hers was the last match. She lost the first two games and we changed the gameplan to something that we thought would work.

She won the next two game, making it 2-2.

In the final break, she said she was going back to playing her way because she thought she could win. I tried to convince to stick to the gameplan.

She changed the gameplan and lost.

Maybe she would have lost even if she hadn’t changed the gameplan but I don’t believe so.

Once you have decided on a gameplan KEEP USING IT.

You might not win each match with a particular gameplan but by trying to plan each point as it happens will be worse.

Learn To Adapt To Different Court Conditions ASAP

Learn To Adapt To Different Court Conditions ASAP

One of the great things about playing club team matches or tournaments is having to adapt to new circumstances and situations.

Obviously, the biggest of those is the opponent but also the court and surroundings are very important too.

The more often you have to adapt, the better your chances of learning to do it faster.

I’ve often heard players complain that by the time they felt comfortable on court, it was too late.

This can even more important when both players are new to a venue as in a tournament.

Getting to a new venue as early as possible helps reduce the feeling of strangeness but that’s only part of the story.

Some players are less affected by different courts than others.

I believe that one of the reasons is that they have put themselves in those sorts of situations as often as possible.

There is also the idea of actively adapting.

When you get on court, feel the walls. Do they feel hot, cold or even damp? Is there a difference between the each sidewall or parts of the frontwall? Looks for these differences during the warm up. Play a few boasts and move forward to hit a straight drive back to your opponent.

Not only will this help you physically warm up but it will also allow you to test the walls and floor.

Don’t forget the height of the court. Play a few lobs to get a feel for the lights and any obstructions.

Lastly, don’t forget the back wall. Make sure you play a few longer drives to see the bounce on the backwall.

What I am trying to explain is that every time you go on court you should be learning about your opponent AND the court.

Of course, if you are playing on courts you know very well, then this is not so important but playing on courts new to you can change the course of matches.

Again, obviously, the opponent is the biggest challenge, but do not neglect to consider the court too.

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

I believe so.

Knowing what you are going to hit a long time before you hit it, can keep your mind clear and that process of avoiding distraction can make that shot better.

Deciding what to hit moments before hitting a ball leaves you open to making crazy decisions.

Having a gameplan allows you to focus on that. It might not be the best gameplan against that particular player but that’s not the important part.

Having or developing self-control can be the difference between winning and losing.

Every now and again, pick a gameplan and use it in a match. Keep with it until the end of the match.

That last part is important.

I remember a student of mine playing a club match, she was the number 1 string and hers was the last match. She lost the first two games and we changed the gameplan to something that we thought would work.

She won the next two game, making it 2-2.

In the final break, she said she was going back to playing her way because she thought she could win. I tried to convince to stick to the gameplan.

She changed the gameplan and lost.

Maybe she would have lost even if she hadn’t changed the gameplan but I don’t believe so.

Once you have decided on a gameplan KEEP USING IT.

You might not win each match with a particular gameplan but by trying to plan each point as it happens will be worse.

How Many Shots Are You?

How Many Shots Are You.

Inside each of us is a number. And it is a VERY important number. That number is a representation of our fitness level and our mental fortitude.

Once you consistently take a player beyond his or her number you can begin to dominate. If you take a player way beyond that number, even for one rally, you are almost guaranteed to be in control for the next few rallies and if you continue to take them beyond their number in those few rallies the game is yours.

It’s a bit like ten Pin Bowling, you add you score onto the next point. Once you go beyond their number in one rally it can be easier to do it for the next one etc.

However, the natural tendency is for players to look for quick winners when they are tired and more often than not they will miss.

Doing this over the course of a few points is good but over the whole match is better.

As you play a game, get somebody to count the number of your shots per rally. You will notice that they are often around the same number. A few rallies will be shorter than others and a few longer than others, but there will be a small range of numbers.

This can depend on the people you are playing but it should average out of a few matches.

Now you know you number, it’s your objective to increase it by 1 shot per month.

I bet you are sitting here thinking that’s easy, but it’s not. It also means that after one year you could play a minimum of 12 shots MORE per rally than when you started. And when you actually see how many shots you really play, you may be surprised.

So how *do* you increase it?

By making sure you don’t play anything silly. Against weaker players, see how long you can keep the rally going without “feeding” them. When under pressure, play defensive shots. I am not advocating simply hitting the ball to the back and becoming a boring player, but making sure you reduce the number of errors and very weak shots.

Why Do You Hit The Ball To The Back?

Why do you hit the ball to the back?

Because everybody else does?
Because that’s what your heard, or seen or read?
Because your coach or training partner told you to?
Because that’s what “squash” is about?

There is no perfect answer for this but none of the above are good enough either.

I say you should hit the ball to the back to force a weak return, from which you should try to win the point.

Bing Bang Bosh. Simple.

Or is it?

Yes and No.

The better you get, the few weak shots are created and the finer the margins. Better players reach more difficult shots that other players wouldn’t.

At higher levels there are more shots to the back because they don’t play weaker returns.

But the process is still the same.

Put aside any longer-term tactical arguments, if you can finish the ball early, do it.

Sometimes you should take the opportunity to practice hitting the ball to the back when you play weaker players. That way, you benefit, they benefit and it’s a challenge for everybody.